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Lady Huskies host fast-pitch regional

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

It was a big deal for Pawhuska High School fast-pitch softball. The 2020 team, under the guidance of second-year skipper Kourtney Herrera, went 12-0 in its district, and 17-5 overall during the regular season, and earned the right to host a four-team 2A regional.

The Lady Huskies began regional play in good form, defeating Panama by a score of 5-1 and setting up a game last Thursday evening against Stroud. The Lady Huskies had a poor outing against Stroud, however, losing 11-4, and faced Panama again at noon Friday.

This time, the Lady Razorbacks had taken the measure of the Lady Huskies. The game was tight and Pawhuska was on the losing end of a couple of tough calls that may have cost the Lady Huskies as many as three runs. The result -- Pawhuska lost to Panama, 4-2, to finish the season at 18 wins, 7 losses; but the girls who will be returning in 2021 have first-hand experience of what it takes to win in the playoffs.

Here's how it went down:

The Lady Huskies batted first in their tournament-opening contest with the Lady Razorbacks, which began at noon Thursday and lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. Miya Curry led off with a hit to left-center that she stretched to a triple. Nevaeh Taylor was out on an infield pop, but Shelby Laird worked the Panama hurler for a walk. Madison Martin was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the Lady Huskies. With Jordan Nelson at the plate, Curry scored on a passed ball and Pawhuska led, 1-0.

Pawhuska ace Zowie Miles retired the Lady Razorbacks in order in the bottom of the first, and Pawhuska put two runners on base in the top of the second. PHS was unable to capitalize, however, and left the runners on.

In the bottom of the second, Panama put a runner on base with one out, but Miles struck out the next hitter and the Lady Huskies used a force-out at second base to end the inning.

In the top of the third, Laird led off with a single. The next two Pawhuska hitters were retired, but Jordan Nelson worked her way through a series of Panama pitches, fouling them off, until she jumped on a pitch and drove it to the wall in center field for a double. Laird scored and the Lady Huskies led, 2-0. Miles retired the side in the bottom of the third and Pawhuska led, 2-0, after three frames.

Tennessee McCartney led off the top of the fourth with a hit to right and made it to third base after the ball got away from a Panama outfielder. Her sister, Landon McCartney, then brought her home with an infield hit, making the score 3-0. Later in the inning, Madison Martin's single to center drove in two more runs, making it 5-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, with two outs and runners at first and third, Panama finally touched Miles for a run, but the Pawhuska pitcher fielded a ground ball and threw to first for an out to end the inning.

In the fifth inning, both sides went down in order. Pawhuska went down in order in the top of the sixth, and Miles allowed one runner in the bottom of the sixth before retiring the Panama side.

The Lady Huskies had two runners on in the top of the seventh, but were unable to push any additional runs across. In the bottom of the last inning, Panama managed to load the bases with just one out but the game ended on an infield pop fly that yielded a double play.

Pawhuska was scheduled to play again at 6 p.m. against either Stroud or Chelsea. Stroud dominated Chelsea by a score of 20-0, and Panama beat Chelsea, 13-4, to eliminate Chelsea on Thursday and set up a game Friday between Panama and the loser of the Stroud/Pawhuska game.

As Pawhuska warmed up for the Stroud game, it appeared Zowie Miles was having some trouble getting her pitches where she wanted them. Stroud batted in the top of the first, and Miles walked the first hitter she faced. The next hitter lifted an infield pop, but shortstop Miya Curry muffed the fielding opportunity and Stroud had runners on first and second.

Stroud pushed home four runs in that first at-bat. One of them scored on a close play at the plate, where Pawhuska catcher Nevaeh Taylor attempted to make the tag. The call went against the Lady Huskies.

In the bottom of the opening inning, Curry and Taylor -- Pawhuska's first and second hitters -- both reached base. Shelby Laird drove Curry home with a single to right, and Taylor made it to third. Taylor then scored when Laird attempted to steal second and the throw to second went astray.

Jayden Sloan drove in Laird with a grounder to short, but that's where Pawhuska's rally ended for the inning, with the Lady Huskies down, 4-3. That was the closest they would get to Stroud.

Miles retired the Lady Tigers in order in the top of the second inning, but the Lady Huskies went quietly in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the third, Stroud added three runs and took a 7-3 lead.

Stroud continued to build and defend its lead, and by the bottom of the seventh inning, with Pawhuska coming to bat for the last time, it was 11-3. The Lady Huskies managed one more run when Curry beat out an infield hit with two outs and Jordan Nelson on third base. Nelson scored on the play, making it 11-4.

Throughout the Stroud game, Pawhuska made defensive errors, particularly in the infield, that hurt its cause. The result, against an able opponent, was a decisive loss.

Friday, in an elimination game against Panama, the Lady Huskies got behind, 1-0, in the first inning, when defensive miscues allowed a Lady Razorbacks' runner to score.

In the bottom of the second inning, with two outs and runners at first and second, Curry hit a liner to left-center and it looked like two runs would score, giving the Lady Huskies the lead. An umpire ruled, however, that Curry had stepped out of the batter's box. She was called out. There were no Pawhuska runs.

The score stayed 1-0 for Panama until the top of the fourth inning, when an infield error by Pawhuska put a runner on. The Panama runner stole second and then scored on a single to center, making it 2-0.

The Lady Huskies cut the Panama lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Tennessee McCartney drove a two-out single up the middle to score a runner. In the top of the fifth inning, however, Panama scored again to make it 3-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Pawhuska made another effort to get its offense rolling. Curry singled to center, and the umpires didn't call her out. Taylor then hit a ball to left field that got away from a defender. Curry scored all the way from first, cutting Panama's lead to 3-2, and Taylor made it to second.

Shelby Laird was up next for Pawhuska, and flied out to right. Taylor appeared to advance from second to third on the fly ball, but an umpire called her out.

Coach Herrera said the umpire told her Taylor left second base early. Herrera said she acknowledged that Taylor had left early, but pointed out she (Herrera) had yelled "tag" to Taylor, who immediately got back to the second-base bag to await the signal to run.

The call ended the bottom of the fifth, and cost Pawhuska a potential tying runner. In the top of the seventh, Panama added another run, making it 4-2, and that was the final score.

Stroud won the regional by beating Panama, 9-2, and advanced to state with a record of 24-6.